DISD Facing Backlash for Renaming School

Kennedy-Curry Middle School | Image by DISD

The public’s reception of the news that Dallas Independent School District’s Kennedy Curry Middle School will change to Royce West Leadership Academy has been mixed.

Kennedy Curry is being renamed to honor Texas State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) after Dallas ISD’s school board voted to make the change back in December 2023. However, the move has been met with community backlash as some believe it was improperly handled.

More specifically, protesters are not upset with Sen. West being honored but with it coming at the expense of losing Kennedy Curry’s name, which holds historical significance for Dallas as well as the neighborhood.

The Highland Hills school was born of the merging of two segregated schools named in honor of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Milton K. Curry, the former president of Bishop College, a historically black college now known as Paul Quinn College. Kennedy Curry was part of the now-defunct Wilmer Hutchins School District, which some are eager to continue to be recognized.

“We couldn’t understand why you would want to move the history,” said Clara McDade, a protester, according to WFAA. “We want to continue to teach our children this history, because it’s important to us. It’s important to the City of Dallas.”

She also pointed out that Kennedy Curry was the only school still honoring the former president given that the John F. Kennedy Learning Center Elementary School changed its name in 2018 to the Solar Preparatory School for Boys.

However, those in favor of the name change have stressed the fact that Sen. West once attended Kennedy Curry, providing students with a poignant model to aspire to.

“Everyone here knew he was going to be great, so why not allow the students today to know what greatness is,” said community member Shay Brewer, according to CBS News Texas. “What many of these students may not realize, until today, Sen. West was just like them, he was a student here in this school.”

Despite the backlash, Sen. West expressed gratitude for the recognition and spoke of a renewed sense of responsibility to continue on the path of public service.

“It hit me, that this school is named after me,” said West, according to CBS. “So the things I’ve done that warranted the naming of the school. I have to continue to do.”

Kennedy Curry has been one of several Dallas ISD campuses producing lackluster academic results, as the 2021-2022 accountability report from the Texas Education Agency suggests with its C rating. Just 27% of students scored at grade level on the STAAR exam that year, well below the subpar 41% average score districtwide.

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